Deirdre Hanna is Founder of Hopewell Hospice Services Inc. in 1993, which includes Hopewell Hospice, Paradise Kids Children’s Services, Hopewell Education Services and The Living Well Centre.
Deirdre had a vision of a Hospice on the Gold Coast after a ‘Voice’ called her in the night telling her to ‘find out about Cicely Saunders.’ Deirdre then read Dame Cicely’s biography and realized that working with death and dying was also to be her own life vocation. Dame Cicely Saunders started St Christopher’s Hospice in London in 1968 and Deirdre was profoundly inspired by this woman of vision. She read books about Cicely Saunders and St Christopher’s Hospice, as well as On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kübler Ross and, after realizing that this was to be her ministry, studied the Ecumenical Hospice Chaplain’s Program as part of her Theology Degree at St Francis’ College in Brisbane.
Deirdre worked as an Anglican Chaplain in The Royal Brisbane Hospital and then as an Ecumenical Chaplain in the Gold Coast Hospital’s Palliative Care Ward. She noticed that many people had no choice of where to spend their final days of life, other than in a hospital setting. Thus the concept of starting a hospice on the Gold Coast as an alternative place in which to die was born. With her partner Rev. Dr Ian Mavor, they set about bringing the dream of a place of hospitality and compassionate loving care at the end stage of life’s journey into a reality.
To read more of Deirdre’s life story that led to her Hospice work, go to Deirdre's Life Story.pdf [Download link below]
Deirdre’s first step in actualizing the dream was to call together a small group of committed people in October 1993 to discuss the hospice philosophy and the need for a building in which to house it. In March 1994, Hopewell became an Incorporated Association with 30 members. Deirdre was Founding President, Ian was Secretary of the Charity and some friends became Committee Members.
The name ‘Hopewell’ was given to Deirdre in a dream and comes from her strong Christian faith and ‘Hope’ in the resurrection that, even after death, life continues in some form. The name also incorporates the ‘Well’ of Living Water from which to drink so that we need never be thirsty for Love again, and about which Jesus spoke. In 1994, they purchased a property called Glory Farm, in Sickle Avenue on Hope Island. This contained a house with two attached flats. and became the Gold Coast’s first free standing community hospice. The synchronicities of the names delighted Hopewell’s members.
As a result of this initiative, Deirdre received a Churchill Fellowship in 1995 to study Spiritual Care of Cancer Patients. This took her to 17 different hospices in Great Britain and North America to study best practices in palliative care, where she finally met Cicely Saunders at St Christopher’s Hospice. Deirdre studied there for a 5 day multi-disciplinary course in Palliative Care.
To gain insight about the benefits Deirdre gained from her Churchill Fellowship go to Churchill Report 1995.pdf [Download link below]
While travelling she then heard her ‘Voice’ again and was called to begin caring for children affected by the death of a parent or sibling or other major grief life event. The Paradise Kids Grief, Loss and Illness Programs were developed by Deirdre in 1996 as her Churchill Fellowship travels included attending an International Conference on Children and Death held in Canada. She brought back into Australia the best of children’s grief courses and adapted them to suit the local culture, drawing also on William Worden’s Tasks of Mourning and her interests in children’s physical, emotional and spiritual health and wellbeing.
The 7-week Paradise Kids Grief and Loss Program covers the four tasks of mourning: accepting the reality that a grievous loss has happened; experiencing the pain of the loss through safe expression of feelings; adjusting to a new environment without the lost object or person; emotionally relocating that which has been lost and re-investing in life with new life-skills for coping with change and a new and more evolved sense of meaning.
The Paradise Kids Program has been adapted to suit children grieving a variety of losses: such as children who have had a death in their family, including indigenous children; the sudden tragic death through suicide or murder of a parent or sibling; losses associated with foster care, divorce and separation; losses associated with a child’s own terminal illness; and, following the 2011 floods in Queensland, a program adapted for children and families affected by natural disasters.
Deirdre served as President for 19 years , and remains a committee member on the board, of steering Hopewell’s vision into today’s reality of The Hopewell Centre, containing a beautiful 8-bed custom built hospice with Australian Council of Health Care Standards Accreditation, private hospital status, and DVA Accreditation; the Paradise Kids Counselling Centre which cares for over 450 children a year, and The Holiday House for children with life-limiting illnesses; The Simply Divine Café and Bookshop; The Living Well Centre and Hopewell Education Services.
Now in her role as Founder she oversees and remains closely involved with all aspects of Hopewell’s continuing evolution and visioning and loves being an integral part of Hopewell’s community of dedicated Board members, loyal and creative staff and hundreds of volunteers. She continues to teach the Grief Counselling, and Palliative Care Courses and leads a Children’s Group each term as well as co-leading Hopewell’s latest community activity, The Women’s Group.
Deirdre’s studies have been varied and include a Bachelor of Theology (B.Th.); Hospital Chaplaincy Certificate (specialising in Pastoral Care and Youth Ministry); Churchill Fellow (Spiritual Care of Cancer Patients, 1995); Certificate in Transpersonal Psychotherapy and Counselling; post-graduate studies in the Doctor of Ministry Program at the University of Creation Spirituality; Multi-Disciplinary Certificate in Hospice Care, St Christopher’s Hospice, London; Certificate in Mindfulness Meditation from the Massachusetts Medical School Mind-Body Stress Reduction Clinic; Certificate in Spiritual Direction and Retreat Leading; Diploma of Nutrition and Dietetics; and Diploma in Swedish Massage.
In her work Deirdre draws on her background in journalism and creative writing. As well as writing the monthly newsletters, and the Hopewell Herald she writes children’s stories for the Paradise Kids Program: The Rainbow House; Henry’s Dream; Marmalade Clown is back in Town; There’s an Angel in My Thought Garden; There’s a Pterodactyl in My Thought Garden; Where’s My Dad; Missing Patrick; and No-Body’s Home. Deirdre has a book of poetry called Soul Journeys, and a book on Life Reflections for residents of the hospice and their loved ones.
Deirdre is also a keen photographer and keeps the Hopewell web sites, the Paradise Kids websites, the newsletters and the Hopewell community well supplied with photos of the many events that make up Hopewell’s vibrant life.
Ian shared with Deirdre Hanna in the founding of Hopewell and had served as Secretary of the Association since 1994. He was Executive Director of Hopewell Hospice Services from 2004 until his death in 2015. Ian had been Principal Education Officer (Health and Personal Development) in Education Queensland when Hopewell started, and then Executive Director of Lifeline Gold Coast.
He had also served as a member of the Health Community Council of the Gold Coast Health District and of the State Council of Palliative Care Queensland. In 2002, Ian was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) “For service to the community through a range of church, social welfare, education and health groups”.
Ian's legacy, the Hopewell Community continues to this day.